INNOVATE

1 Common Mistake Makes Customers Run Away. Here’s How to Avoid It

Your marketing efforts become irrelevant if you don’t get this part right.

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BY Sonia Thompson - 06 Sep 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

It was a beautiful building, and it looked so inviting on the inside. I'd admired the restaurant for weeks as I passed by, vowing to stop in and grab a bite one day.

Then a friend and I did decide to eat there. About three minutes after walking in, we walked out. The reason we left? There were no warm and inviting smiles on the other side of the counter. As we asked questions about the menu, we felt more like a burden, rather than welcome guests.

We didn't feel like we belonged. So we went to a place where we did.

How many companies push good customers away

It really is a shame. Businesses invest a boatload of money in product development to create offerings their ideal customers will love. And then they invest even more money to spread the word about their product so they can attract the people who can benefit most from what they have to offer.

And when customers do show up in response to all that strategic marketing and execution, far too many companies treat them badly. No bueno.

All the blame doesn't belong with workers who are on the front lines in service roles. Because let's face it, sometimes people can have a bad day. But occurrences like these happen frequently online too.

A while ago, I needed to rent an Airbnb apartment for a month. After searching, for what seemed like hours, I finally found a place I was excited about. And then I read the house rules.

There was a long list of all the things the host was not responsible for, along with a number of specific scenarios in which tenants would lose their security deposit or get charged out of pocket.

Here is one excerpt:

The Property Manager or Landlord is not responsible for the replacement of: burnt out light bulbs, damaged towels or damaged bed linens after the 7th night of any rental contract.

And another:

Property Manager or Landlord will not be responsible for drain blockages and backups in the kitchen sink, washing machine, toilets, bathroom sinks and bathtub caused by grease, paper, food, hair or any other objects. Clogged drains and blockages are the financial responsibility of the Tenant. If the Tenant uses our recommended plumbing company to repair the problem and if the plumber determines that the stoppage was not the fault of the Tenants, the Property Manager or Landlord will fully reimburse the Tenant for the repair.

And yet another:

Please return the apartment in the same condition it was received. Please clean and dust all furniture, sweep floors, clean the bathroom(s) and kitchen including all cookware, plates and glasses...We reserve the right to deduct from the "damage deposit" any costs of cleaning the apartment if the apartment is not returned in the same conditions it was received, and if the above guidelines are not followed.

I've stayed in a ton of Airbnbs over the past three years, and I consider myself an excellent guest. But reading these rules was an immediate signal to me that this apartment was not the place for me. I wasn't going to feel comfortable staying in a place that made me feel like a terrible guest, before even making a reservation.

A simple way to make your customers feel like they belong

Treat them like welcome guests in your home. Treat them like you want them to stay a while, come back, and bring some friends.

A few months back, I went to a restaurant in Buenos Aires called Chicken Bros to meet up with some friends. I follow a gluten-free diet, and there were only a few options for me to eat. As our group chatted with one of the owners and the chef, they invited us back for Sunday brunch to enjoy their chicken and waffles.

Now I love waffles but hadn't had them in years because of my special diet. That's when the chef offered to whip up a special batch of gluten-free waffles, just for me.

I couldn't turn down such an irresistible offer. I returned for the Sunday brunch and was delighted to once again fill my belly with waffles.

The restaurant had no obligation to give me any special treatment. I wouldn't have faulted them if they didn't.

But by going out of their way to make a small gesture to show me they valued me as a customer, made me feel like I belong. And it won them my adoration.

Don't throw all your marketing efforts down the drain by delivering a terrible experience that pushes your customers away. Support all the work you put in to attract the customers you want, by creating an experience with every interaction with you that lets them know that your business is exactly where they want to be.